Love is the cement that binds the Allen and Helga Neathery family - in life and death.
It's love and happy memories that will sustain and draw the family closer together as they mourn the death of Lori Ann, their 17-year-old daughter and sister, who died early Monday morning in a car-school bus crash while en route to Cyprus High School. Her funeral was Thursday.A senior at the school, Lori lost her life when her 1979 mid-size car slid out of control on a snowy road and collided with an empty Granite District bus about a mile from the high school.
The teen, who was driving for the first time in snow, was ejected from the car. She was pronounced dead on arrival about 8:13 a.m. at Pioneer Valley Hospital.
The bus driver, Ivan L. Labrum, 40, Magna, emotionally shaken but not physically injured in the tragic accident, radioed from his bus for assistance. Salt Lake County deputy sheriffs were on the scene within minutes.
"I guess what hurts the most is that when the kids needed something we were always there," said Neathery Wednesday at the family home. He didn't realize it had snowed when his daughter left home.
Otherwise, "I would have insisted on driving her because she had not driven in the snow," said Neathery, who had the day off Monday. He said he was relaxing in bed when his attractive blonde, blue-eyed daughter said goodbye and left the house about 7:20.
She usually left about 10 minutes earlier and told her dad she was "running a little late." Lori had planned to pick up her friend, Shay Fackrell, but called to ask that she get a ride with her mother and that the two could see each other later at school.
The Neatherys, who had five children including Lori, live on 50th West. Cyprus High School is located at 8623 W. and 30th South. It was a long way for Lori to drive. "I was really worried about that most of the summer because I knew what we would be facing in the winter, but I hadn't really gotten around to teaching her to drive in bad weather conditions. She was unprepared," Neathery said.
He said his daughter was a careful and considerate driver.
While living at a previous location, Lori attended Granger High as a sophomore and obtained a special permit to remain at the school her junior year after her family moved to their present address. She had a lot of friends at both schools. The Neatherys reside just two blocks west of 48th West, the borderline for Granger and Cyprus.
Kenneth Griener, Granite District director of transportation and former principal at Granger, said he was shocked to see Lori's name come across his desk about 3:30 p.m. Monday.
"I remember her cute personality. Since I interviewed most every student who came to Granger on a special permit, I got to know her personally. She would stop and talk to me in the hall," Griener said.
Lori was "well-liked by her friends and teachers" at Cyprus, said Ben Lems, an assistant principal.
Lori's cocoa-brown and cream vinyl-topped car, which she'd nearly paid for, was purchased a year ago this month. But the car was stored in a garage until last March, after she obtained her driver's license. The car was in good running condition and equipped with all-weather tires, her father said.
Neathery and his 20-year-old son, Jeff, who lives at home, occasionally burst into tears as they pulled out photographs, a birthday message penned by Lori just days ago, and as they discussed Lori and Mrs. Neathery's recent choice of a silver and gold diamond-studded ring for their father and husband.
Jeff, who frequently expressed love for his sister and other family members, said he had a strong feeling that Lori had been killed as he sat waiting for his car to warm up and heard on the radio about 8:50 a.m. that a teenage girl had been killed in Magna.
"I just felt it. I just felt it. It was like someone had reached in and grabbed my heart," Jeff said.
Next to her family, Lori's first loves were country music and horses. Decorative, miniature horses line shelves in her bedroom, where white antique furniture and lavender-flowered drapes soften colors in the room.
"Lori was loved by everybody who knew her. She had the most outgoing personality that I have ever known," said Jeff, who recalled how Lori loved to dress up on Friday and Saturday nights to go dancing with friends.
Lori spent part of last Sunday washing and polishing her car and putting together a photograph album, which includes many pictures of friends and family. Also included are her own photographs as a contestant in the Miss Junior America pageant. At Granger High, Lori's love of animals was enhanced by enrollment in an agriculture class. She planned to pursue a modeling career.
On her father's birthday Lori penned a message in large block letters: "Happy 53rd. I Love You Very Much! Thanks I love You Dad."
Mrs. Neathery expressed appreciation to neighbors and friends and sympathy to the school bus driver. They said they blame no one for their daughter's death and hope to personally express love to Labrum for his concern.
"I just feel that God probably needed her - more than we did," Neathery said, sobbing. "But I believe that God has a plan for all of us. This (life) is just a mock setting. Our real life is with him, and he takes us as he needs us to fill his plan . . . ."
His wife referred to Lori as "my inspiration and a self-starter." And she said, "We want the bus driver to know that we don't blame him in any way. We love him and appreciate that he cared so much." The family also praised deputies Lynn Cox and Brad Harmon for their efforts.